Arts & Culture

The Texas Music Festival At UH Is Paving The Way For Diversity In Classical Music

The long-time festival attracts top young musicians from around world to Houston, enriching our present and future music scene.

General and Artistic Director, Alan Austin, describes the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival as a melting pot.

What began in 1990 as a festival that mainly attracted talented young local musicians has since grown in reputation and prestige to become an international orchestral training program. With that growth has come a larger and more diverse pool of applicants.

"If you look at our orchestra just in terms of its ethnic make-up, you'll see that it sort of mirrors what Houston also does, which is we have a wide range of diversity in the orchestra," said Austin.

This summer’s 95 musicians, selected from about 400 who auditioned, come from top music schools like Juilliard, and are from Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, Poland, South Korea, and all over the U.S.

"It's really exciting to see this sort of melting pot happening in the orchestra because music after all is kind of a language with no barriers of gender or ethnicity."

Take the trumpet section, for instance, which Austin notes "is not your typical trumpet section of four white males." The four players include an African American and two female trumpeters.

Austin said that Houston's own diversity helps attract students, who then often come back to pursue advanced music degrees or careers with the city's professional orchestras.

"I'm always very proud when I look at especially the Ballet and Opera orchestras ... we have a large representation of our alumni in their organizations ... and to think about the impact we've had over time on Houston's musical community."

The annual four-week festival selects musicians based on merit, and it awards full tuition and housing scholarships to those who make the cut. Austin believes that making attendance financially accessible has been a key factor to attracting a wide range of applicants.

"And I think ultimately the most important thing about being diverse is pointing the way for the next generation, who's looking for a reason to pursue music."

TMF 2018 runs through July 1 at the University of Houston. A complete schedule of concerts and events can be found here.

Listen to the complete interview with Alan Austin below:


Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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